Mediating Parenting Plans

 

South African law provides that all determinations relating to a child must be in the child’s best interests.  This standard is set out in the South African Constitution as well as in the Children’s Act of 2005. The determination of a child’s best interests is critical for the mediating of parenting plans. 

 

MEDIATING PARENTING PLANS

During the course of a mediation, a mediator will assist each parent to put consider and put forward their proposals for consideration by the other parent concerning potential arrangements that each of them would ideally like to have in place for the children in their Parenting Plan.  

Once all the proposals have been put forward, parents are given an opportunity to discuss the proposals with the mediator facilitating this discussion between the parents. Parents would be assisted in considering the specific needs of each of each child, the needs of the family unit, as well as the reasonableness of each proposal. 

Talking together through these issues often tends to help parents to align their parenting focus, it enables them to keep at the forefront the needs of their children, and it helps them to ensure that their children are kept out of the firing line.

The reason for our Children’s Laws requiring that the final agreed-upon arrangement is recorded in a written Parenting Plan is so as to prevent post-separation/divorce disputes arising between the parents. Post-dispute conflict can range from conflict on care and contact to conflict pertaining to decision-making and general day-to-day issues. A well-mediated Parenting Plan is one where the parents put in place a mechanism for dealing with potential disputes as and when the disputes arises.

 

THE PURPOSE OF A PARENTING PLAN

Primarily, the aims of a Parenting Plan is to:

  • Regulate the exercise of each parent’s parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child; 
  • Facilitate a co-operative parenting relationship between the parents;
  • Maintain the relationship between the child and each parent post-divorce;
  • Eradicate unnecessary disputes regarding the children;
  • Serve the best interests of the child. 

A well crafted Parenting Plan has great potential to reduce the level of conflict between parents. This in turn, would lower the level of trauma normally experienced by the child in the aftermath of the separation and divorce. Mediation seeks to help parents develop a Parenting Plan that is unique and specific to the needs of their family.  

According to the findings of the experts, children experience emotional distress when:

  • they witness or hear their parents arguing;
  • when their parents involve them in the divorce determinations;
  • when their parents involve them in adult discussions on the other parent’s fitness to parent;
  • where parental alienation is present; and
  • where the children are required to act as the go-between for their parents.  

 

THE ROLE OF THE FAMILY MEDIATOR 

Ideally, when mediating Parenting Plans, the mediator will  assist the parents to:

  • move away from discussions centered solely on their own positions and rights;
  • discuss parental wants, needs, concerns, and fears;
  • consider the needs and best interests of their child;
  • hear their child’s perspective on matters impacting their child ; and
  • work towards developing a mutually satisfactory Parenting Plan that will serve the best interests of the child and critically, stand the test of time.

A mediator will as far as possible, assist the parents through a process of constructive dialogue to gain clarity and understanding of not only their own, but also of the other parent’s perspective, as well as that of the child. 

One of the key goals for the mediator is to help parents recognize the steps that they need to take in order to create a home environment for their child that is:

  • free from stress and hostility;
  • is able to serve the child’s best interests (in every respect);and
  • capable of fostering the child’s growth thereby enabling the child to flourish notwithstanding the divorce or separation.

Depending on the age of the child, the mediator may well suggest that the child’s voice be heard by its parents, through:

  • the assistance of the child’s therapist;
  • the assistance of the mediator who is mediating the parent’s matter ; or
  • the assistance of another mediator.

Ultimately though whatever is contained in the final Parenting Plan should be the jointly agreed upon  arrangement that the child’s parents (putting aside their difference and their own pain with the breakdown of their relationship)  have together decided,  having regard to their child’s voice, will be in the best interests of their child

 

https://www.acts.co.za/childrens-act-2005

 

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